JERUSALEM -- Tradition says the biblical patriarch Abraham fathered both the Jewish and Arab nations.
Now, new DNA-based research reveals a genetic link between Jews and Palestinians, suggesting the two peoples, locked in a bitter struggle for more than a century, indeed share a common ancestry dating back 4,000 years.
The study, published Tuesday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, says the Y chromosome found in Jewish men may go back to a common pool of Middle Eastern ancestors.
After the first major Jewish exile of 586 B.C., when Jews dispersed across Europe and North Africa, Jews largely retained their genetic identity, one that was formed in the Middle East, according to the study, led by Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona.
Even after centuries of exile, Diaspora Jews remained closer to each other and more similar to Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese in terms of shared Y chromosome characteristics than to people in their host countries, the study says.
"Eventually people will realize that they are not that different," said Batsheva Bonne-Tamir, a geneticist from Tel Aviv University who participated in the study.
Still, she cautioned that the techniques were new and that until the human genome is mapped, it will be difficult to be certain about the conclusions.
The study compared the male, or Y, chromosome, which is passed from father to son in 1,371 males from seven groups of Israeli Jews of various origins and 16 non-Jewish groups in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Hammer identified 19 variations of the Y chromosome, including eight lineages found to varying degrees among Jews and Arabs.
Based on this measure, the study found that despite the many centuries their ancestors had spent in exile in different parts of the world, the Israeli Jews in the sample had the closest genetic links.
Next in genetic affinity to Jews were Palestinians and Syrians, followed by Saudi Arabians, Lebanese, and Druse, a Middle Eastern sect that practices a secret form of Islam. …